SMS Schlesien is one of five Pre-Dreadnoughts of the Deutschland class, not to be confused with the later class of Cruisers. Initially she was built for the Imperial German Navy, seeing service till the near end of the Second World War.
During the late 1800s, the German navy was changing and rapidly expanding, with funding for new vessels coming in through Flotten Gesetze or in English Naval/Fleet Laws, with the goal of competing with the Royal Navy.
The Second Naval Law allocated funding and a goal to build 38 Battleships by 1920, which started out with the Braunschweig class of battleships, setting the framework for the Deutschland class. The class differs in some ways such as replacing wing turrets with casemate mounted guns.
Plans were drawn up in 1903, and an initial design was started, Deutschland, which had some differences from the ships to come after her, notably in the boilers. Deutschland has a mix of fire-tube and water-tube boilers, while the ships that came after her had just water-tube boilers which overall are lighter. Weight savings from the change in boilers allowed the rest of the class to have slightly thicker armor belts. Schlesien herself was completed and commissioned into service in 1906-08, only a few months before HMS Dreadnought would come into service, rendering all Pre-Dreadnoughts obsolete.
Service History + Post War History
In the era before World War I, her service was calm and quiet, with very few events happening to her. Such as finally getting her full crew, doing some sailing around Europe, and being sent to the Second Battle fleet in 1911.
Once war was declared in 1914, she was deployed to defend the German Blight, seeing relatively minor service. Shortly after, Schlesien was transferred to help the Battlecruisers in their raid of Scarborough, but a decent number of vessels including Schlesien had to turn back with a major part of the fleet due to a Royal Navy threat. In 1916 Schlesien and her sisters joined the High Seas Fleet with the Dreadnought battleships to help the Battlecruisers. The Royal Navy intercepted, and a battle started, Jutland. Being second to last in the line, and followed by her sister ship Schleswig-Holstein, they did not see much action. In the evening, the Pre-Dreadnoughts went in to aid the Battlecruisers, taking some fire, but overall surviving. During the night, Royal Navy Destroyers attacked the Pre-Dreadnoughts, with Pommern, the lead ship in the line, being hit by a torpedo and having her ammo stowage detonated. Pommern went down with all hands lost. In total during the battle, Schlesien only lost one life onboard. After the battle, she was sent back to Germany, serving minor roles, mainly as a training vessel for the rest of the war.
Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was allowed to keep 8 older Pre-Dreadnoughts, Schlesien being one of them. Eventually two of the other Pre-Dreadnoughts became worn out and needed replacing, so Schlesien and her sister Schleswig-Holstein were brought out of mothballs. During the interwar period she received multiple refits, such as updating her boilers to be based, and removing the foremost funnel. Afterwards she would sail around the world and serve as a training ship.
When World War II broke out, she still served primarily as a training vessel, while occasionally being used as shore bombardment. Slowly her role and importance decreased, serving as an ice breaker, then as an escort with a skeleton crew, and eventually sailing back for her final refit and then usage again as a training vessel.
On May 3rd 1945, she was located by soviet forces after hitting a British mine, she was severely damaged causing most of the ships crew to be evacuated, while the AA gunners remained. On the 4th, Soviet aircraft attacked the small formation of ships that she was in, where at minimum a FAB-500 hit her. It is likely that also 2x FAB-1000s hit her, and possibly that a FAB-250 hit as well. Torpedoes were launched, but most likely due to multiple factors did not hit the ship. According to this account, at least one aircraft was downed, and 5 were damaged from this sortie. Due to the damage inflicted upon Schlesien, she was sunk.
Some minor scrapping happened on the vessel from 1946-1956 but was mostly left intact. Scrapping started again in the 1970s.
- Schlesien in the 1970s
Technical Specifications 1945:
Please do note that these are the best specifications from multiple online sources that I do not remember.
Builder: Schichau-Werke, Danzig
Launched: May 28th 1906
Commissioned: May 5th 1908
Fate: Sunk in May 1945
- 13,190 tons (Normal)
- 13,994 tons (Max)
Length: 125.9m (Waterline)
Compliment: 743 (Most likely would not have had this amount during her service life)
- 2x2 283/37 SK L/40 C/01
6x1 105/42 SK C/32
10x1 40/56 FlaK 28
4x4 20/65 C/38
5x2 20/65 C/38
FuMB 6 ECM Suite
Turrets: Up to 280
Conning Tower: 300
(Pardon the Low resolution for these next two)
(Note the camouflage)
(Diagram for one of the secondaries)
(Main gun shell diagram)
My old forum post from 2020: SMS Schlesien - Germany - War Thunder - Official Forum
Морозов, Мирослав Эдуардович. Торпедоносцы Великой Отечественной: их звали “смертниками”. Яуза, 2011. ( Found and Translated on an abandoned forum that quotes it directly, look her:e SMS Schlesien soviet side story - Pastebin.com ) – For information about her final battle